Thursday, April 26, 2012

A gray day calls for nice hot soup!

It’s one of those early spring days here in Toronto that’s gloomy, damp and for some reason always makes me feel chillier than I ought to feel. Since I had to do a bit of spring gardening work in the backyard this morning, I came back into the house feeling cold and a bit miserable.

Fortunately, I found Vicki hard at work on our lunch. We had the ingredients on hand to make a quick and delicious soup that warmed me to the tips of my toes: Tuscan Bean Soup. It was ready from start to finish in about thirty-five minutes.

I believe Vicki originally found this recipe in one of our many cookbooks, but as usual, we messed around with it a good bit since making it for the first time. Another good thing is that it’s vegetarian and comes with a good balance of vegetables to give you a healthy shot of complete protein, always an important consideration when you’re not eating meat.

As always, good soup begins with the best stock. Today, we used our vegetable stock made with bags of frozen peelings, leftovers, herb stems and tomato skins from our sauce-making late last summer. When we get enough, we throw everything into our very large stock pot and put it on to simmer for a few hours. That happened earlier this week, and as we hadn’t packaged up the new stock to put it into the freezer, we didn’t even have to thaw it.

[Sidebar: This current batch of stock contained trimmings from celery, carrot, onion, leek greens, shallots, garlic, parsnips, and tomatoes, as well as stalks from parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. All of these are things we save whenever we’re prepping food. So what most people would throw in the garbage or compost, we save for stock. It tastes fantastic and is basically free except for the energy needed to freeze it and later cook it. Afterwards, the remains go into the compost bin and break down very quickly. What’s not to like about that?]

Other than the stock, the rest of the ingredients in this soup are pretty unremarkable. About the only thing we might not have on hand all the time for this is the Savoy cabbage. Everything else are pretty well staple items in our kitchen.

So if you’re in the mood to whip up a warming soup that’s simple, quick, and tasty, you might want to give this a try.

Tuscan Bean Soup
Serves 4 as a supper dish 

Vicki’s eye was caught by this recipe as she was looking for a hearty fall/winter soup. She had her doubts when she saw cabbage because we don’t think of cabbage as a vegetable that Italians usually eat, but beans are definitely a staple of the Tuscan diet. So she figured, what the heck, she’d give it a try. It is fantastic and tastes even better when reheated. Cannellini beans are like navy beans, the ones used to make baked beans. You should be able to find them canned in the supermarket. Buon appetito!

3 Tbs olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup sliced leeks (¼" thick slices), white portion only
1½ cups redskin potatoes, ½" dice
1 Tbs minced garlic
6 cups vegetable stock
1 14 oz. can cannelloni beans, drained
6 oz. Savoy cabbage, shredded
3 Tbs chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, and gently cook the onion, leeks, potato and garlic for 4-5 minutes until they are just beginning to soften.

2. Pour in the stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Stir in the cabbage, beans and half the herbs, season and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

4. Spoon about one third of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. Return the soup to the pot, adjust the seasoning, and heat through for 5 minutes.

5. Ladle the soup into heated bowls, sprinkle with remaining herbs and Parmesan cheese. Serve with a crusty baguette, or garlic toasts. To make garlic toasts, simply slice the baguette, drizzle some olive oil over each slice, rub them with a sliced clove of raw garlic, and toast in the broiler until golden.


Merlin said...

"Unthaw"? Rick, you need an editor for this blog!

Rick Blechta said...

You got me, Merlin! I grovel at my egregious mistake, but it's also a real word and in the Oxford dictionary. I will correct this and make a mental note never to do it again! Put it down to me being a Yank by birth. At least I don't say "nuculer".

Merlin said...

Unthaw must have been allowed by the same dictionary compilers who thought having flammable, inflammable and imflammable would make things less confusing.

Rick Blechta said...

Actually, it’s in the Oxford Dictionary no less! But yes, you are correct. There are a lot of dumb words out there, and growing up around people who use words like “unthaw” all the time, I didn’t notice that I had, as well. You busted me. I will wash my mouth out with an inflammable substance if I do it again.

If you want something along the same lines check out “overwhelmed”, “underwhelmed“ and “whelmed”.

HelenL said...

Silly boys! What, no basil? no bay leaf?

Rick Blechta said...

Nope. The soup doesn't need either. Basil would quickly whelm (notice that usage, Merlin) milder-tasting things like cannelloni beans and Savoy cabbage, and I think bay wouldn’t add all that much to the flavor.

One thing I should have stressed in the post is that this soup is ‘simple food’, basic fare, and that’s part of its strength.

Another is to point out to readers that in Italy, the Tuscans are referred to (disparagingly) as ”bean eaters”. This recipe is a good example of that, and I say, “Good for them!” if this is any indication of their regional cuisine.